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The Spread of Controversial Technologies

https://jalopnik.com/what-if-autonomous-cars-just-never-happen-1820778692

In order for a technology to spread, it must reach a certain payoff for each customer in addition to being started in the right market groups. In a real world scenario, the spread of technology takes on a much more complicated path than discussed in lecture with a set defined threshold and defined groups of nodes. In order for a technology to be developed in the first place, the expected payoff for the customer must be enough such that the potential demand is worth the R&D investment for a company. The concept of this potential payoff must then be spread in order for the technology to be fully implemented. This step must come first before we consider the spread of the technology itself in its full production form. In many ways, this spread of the initial technology concept follows the same general behavior as the spread of the technology itself. However, while this initial concept could spread, causing companies to invest, that doesn’t always mean that the technology itself will eventually spread.

The linked article discusses the potential spread of a very hot technology in the current automotive landscape, autonomous vehicles. The apparent payoff for the customer has created huge potential demand for car companies, and as a result, the concept has spread very quickly. Almost every auto manufacturer today has started to invest in autonomous drive, confident that it will reap the benefits once the technology is proven. Yet many difficulties lie ahead for the technology before it can be brought to the market.

Firstly, automotive companies are convinced there is a strong demand for the technology as it has generated a lot of hype in the industry, yet the article mentions that most people still wouldn’t want a fully autonomous car, the payoff is too little for them to change their ways. Beyond that, difficulties lie with the technology itself. Currently, it is still expensive to implement and only the priciest of cars have semi autonomous modes. Are these the right nodes for the technology to be placed for it to spread as recent as the next couple of years as companies seem to promise? Or do we have to wait until the technology can be placed at lower price vehicles (nodes) for it to spread which could be decades down the line. Furthermore, it still has not been definitely proven that autonomous cars can intermingle with human driven vehicles. The article mentions the first autonomous bus in Las Vegas that was immediately crashed into by a human driver. The concept of full autonomous traffic seems pretty feasible, as would having no autonomous cars at all. However, in order for autonomous cars to fully spread, they have to be able to cope with the in between phases. If it cannot, then the technology can be left for dead. This highlights that many other factors can come into play when it comes to making a new technology spread. While the simple node model we use in class can be useful and often insightful, it has its limitations and other considerations must be taken into account when applying it to the real world.

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